Changing the world, one line of code at a time

Read time 3min 10sec

It's hard to beat the business case for open source: teams of motivated individuals working with intent to solve problems with software. But how do organisations attract and retain open source talent?

Increasingly, these engineers are turning up for the gig, and a good salary is no longer their only consideration.

They're also building their CVs on GitHub, which is more meaningful than their formal work experience, said Werner Knoblich, Red Hat's senior vice president and general manager for Europe, Middle East and Africa, at the company's summit in San Francisco this week.

Living code

Their contribution to open source software is right there in the living code, and it's there for all to see.

At last count, Red Hat was directly working with 450 projects, and 'probably several thousand smaller ones', says Deborah Bryant, a senior director and software engineer at Red Hat. The company employs about 11 000 people.

She says Red Hat isn't just a company, and was rather 'part of the open source family'.

Speaking at Red Hat Summit 2018 in San Francisco this week, Bryant says Red Hat also focused on 'supporting individual engineers', and small events that it believes 'are critical to the health of online communities'.

"As someone who came out of the telecommunications and Internet industry, where the model is to go out and acquire a company, (the open source model) is really very exciting and gratifying."

Stormy Peters, a senior manager on the community team at Red Hat, says it will identify an open source project that it's customers are using, and it will then contribute to it.

"And we don't just contribute code, we contribute design work, Websites, infrastructure. We try and be a good citizen and help the project out. The other thing we do is if we acquire a company, we open source that code.

Best for the world

Peters says she was speaking to the CEO of a company which Red Hat had acquired, and she recalls him saying: 'I don't get it. You just paid a lot of money for me, and now you're releasing my code as open source'.

Peters says this is the model that Red Hat believes works 'best for the world and our customers'.

"All the projects we work on are open source. That's an amazing contribution to the world and one that I'm excited to be a part of."

The company is also focused on attracting young people to coding, which it's found works well if paired with an IOT project. In one case it taught middle schoolers to build a camera with a Raspberry Pi device.

Vincent Batts, a principal software engineer for container architecture at Red Hat, said the 'maker' scene (or people who love to tinker with technology) often got younger people excited 'and that's where the next generation is going to come from'.

"Ideas compete, but people collaborate," says Batts.

"At the end of the day, there are actual people coding the features of software. It's the individuals. Some people are pretty quiet about their open source contributions. But when they put their work into something, you see that person's name is behind it, not just the company. They're not hiding behind a proprietary wall. It's an astounding personal responsibility (being a software engineer).

Open source software developers measure their success by how many lines of code they contribute to a project.
Open source software developers measure their success by how many lines of code they contribute to a project.

(Open source) is the sum of all those people; it's not just a company funding it."

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